Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

Justin Dunk broke the news late Sunday night that Rick Campbell would not return as the head coach of the Ottawa Redblacks in 2020.

Ottawa’s year started with the unceremonious departure of a number of star players as well as offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo. Things never improved in the nation’s capital as the club would finish 3-15 following a promising 2-0 start.

The question now becomes who Marcel Desjardins will hire as the second head coach in Redblacks’ franchise history. Below are five names that should be near the top of his wish list.

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Tommy Condell

Condell is widely considered one of the CFL’s top offensive minds, helping a young Dane Evans achieve success in Hamilton this season. With more than 20 years of coaching experience between the CFL and NCAA, Condell is ready to become a head coach for the first time in his career.

It’s no secret that Ottawa needs an upgrade at quarterback and Condell would provide Ottawa with the inside track to signing Jeremiah Masoli — a pending free agent — to become the new face of the franchise.

Condell would be a shrewd hire regardless, but his connection to Masoli makes him an even stronger candidate for a team that desperately needs to get better under centre.

Khari Jones

The former league Most Outstanding Player has become a hot coaching commodity after leading the Montreal Alouettes to a 10-8 record in 2019. Promoted in June following the dismissal of Mike Sherman, Jones became the first head coach to lead the Als to the post-season since 2014.

Jones is not under contract beyond this season with Montreal’s ownership situation not yet settled heading into the playoffs. The 48-year-old is also rumoured to be a top candidate for potential coaching vacancies in Toronto and Winnipeg.

Jones has ten years of experience as a quarterbacks coach and/or offensive coordinator in the CFL. That résumé, paired with his personable leadership style, could make him the prime candidate to become the Redblacks’ next head coach.

Jason Maas

The 43-year-old has spent the last four seasons as the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos, posting a record of 39-33. The Eskimos have never finished higher than third in the West Division under his guidance with discipline commonly cited as a problem under the fiery bench boss.

The retired quarterback spent one year as the Redblacks’ offensive coordinator in 2015 and was instrumental in Henry Burris being named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player at the age of 40.

There was bad blood when Maas left Ottawa — owner Jeff Hunt wanted compensation from Edmonton when the coach was hired away — but time heals all wounds. If Maas wants to remain a CFL head coach, Ottawa may be his only opportunity to do so in 2020.

Mike O’Shea

The current head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has turned down multiple offers of a contract extension from the club, leading to speculation that he’d like to coach out east.

O’Shea has compiled a 56-52 record in Winnipeg, though the club has just one post-season victory under his guidance. If the Blue Bombers fall flat at McMahon Stadium in Sunday’s West Semi-Final, it’s possible the team will want to move on from the 49-year-old.

O’Shea is the epitome of a players’ coach. He has built a strong culture in Winnipeg, a franchise that was seen as toxic prior to his arrival in December of 2013. Considering how the Redblacks fared in 2019, O’Shea may be the perfect leader to help rebuild Ottawa’s on-field product.

Paul LaPolice

Winnipeg’s offensive coordinator coached his unit to another strong season, leading the West Division in points per game (28.2) and rushing yards per game (147.9). LaPolice has a reputation for being one of the CFL’s best coaches in the areas of game planning and calling plays.

LaPolice served as the head coach in Winnipeg from 2010-2012, leading the team to a Grey Cup appearance in 2011. He’s been hungry for a second head coaching opportunity having interviewed for a number of positions over the past three off-seasons.

Matt Nichols and Chris Streveler are pending free agents, both of whom could be of interest to the Redblacks as potential starters. If Ottawa is looking for someone to serve as head coach and offensive coordinator, LaPolice would be a solid hire.

Comments

John Hodge
John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist in the Jon Gott lookalike contest.